Historical reforestation created planetary cooling. - 17 Feb 2011  
email to friend  E-mail this to a Friend    Print

Although most of the focus on climate change has centered on the warming effects of fossil fuels beginning with the fairly recent industrial era, new research highlights the start of global warming thousands of years ago when forests were cleared to create room for livestock and other agriculture.
These changes are evident in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica, which show increases in carbon dioxide levels related to the burning and decay of cleared forests and meadowlands.

For the study, researchers from Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology in California, USA and from the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology in Germany used a model of global land coverage beginning around 800 AD. To determine how reforestation might affect atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, they focused on four times in history when human populations decreased due to either conflict or disease, with agricultural fields thus being abandoned.

These periods of minimized human activity were found to create a cooling effect as the forests were naturally restored and resumed absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere. Lead author Dr. Julia Pongratz explained the modern implication of such reforestation on planetary cooling as she stated, “Today about a quarter of the net primary production on the Earth's land surface is used by humans in some way, mostly through agriculture… Based on the knowledge we have gained from the past, we are now in a position to make land-use decisions that will diminish our impact on climate and the carbon cycle.”

Many thanks, Dr. Pongratz and colleagues, for your work in revealing the profoundly beneficial effects of reforestation in mitigating climate change. Let us do our utmost to minimize destructive tree losses by halting livestock-raising and other unsustainable agricultural practices for the protection of our planet.

In a video message presented at a June 2009 conference with dignitaries in Mexico, Supreme Master Ching Hai addressed the importance of conserving the world's vital forests as well as a way that this could be done.

Supreme Master Ching Hai : We have to ban deforestation. And we have to plant more trees, of course. Wherever there's erosion or empty land we have to plant trees.

Deforestation is also largely driven by meat production. With the United Nations estimating that deforestation accounts for approximately 20% of all greenhouse gas emissions, nearly all deforestation itself is related to meat production.

Eighty percent of cleared Amazon forest is designated as a cattle grazing area to prepare the animals for slaughter, and the remainder is planted as soy crops used also largely for animal feed. So to stop animal products is to protect our precious forests, the lungs of our Earth, and the crucial factor for our survival.